Ever saw a video of a woman driving into the metrostation with her car, because her navigation told her to? I’ve always secretly chuckled about those women. Knowing I would never do something like that. Well, I did something similar during my ride from to Tura in India.
The road to Cooch Bihar
Riding out of Darjeeling, leaving the lush, green mountains behind me felt a bit sad. I absolutely love riding in the mountains and did not like the idea of replacing them for flat terrain. At the same time I felt excited to enter the North Eastern States of India and coming closer to the border with Myanmar.
Back on flat terrain, I passed kilometer after kilometre of tea estates. They reminded me of the area around Sylhet, Bangladesh - which is actually not too far from the North Eastern states.
I wanted to take a picture of me surrounded by tea plants. I scanned the estates for quite some time, before I noticed one without a fence and no curious people anywhere nearby. I jumped off my bike and got into the field!
Buckingham Palace at Cooch Bihar
After a short tea-intermezzo, I continued my journey towards Cooch Bihar. Whenever you find yourself somewhere between Sikkim and the North Eastern States, this old colonial town is a good place to stay for a night.
Located on the foothills of the Himalayan, it has had quite a turbulent history. The small kingdom of Cooch Bihar got seized by the Bhutanese king in 1772. They then made a deal with the British East India Company, who would help them to fight the Buthanese king.
In return the kingdom would become a princely kingdom under the protection of the British East Company. When India gained independence in 1947, the region came under control of the Government of India and it is now part of the state West Bengal.
In 1887, they build the Cooch Bihar Palace, modelled after the Buckingham palace. I’ve never seen Buckingham Palace with my own eyes, but judging by photographs I saw online they did a pretty good job.
You cannot miss the palace when you ride into town so I went in to have a closer look. As a foreigner, it’s a steep 300 rupees to enter the premises (4,30 USD/3,75 EURO, Indian nationals pay 25 rupees). The palace is surrounded by a large garden, one of those rare oases of peace within a busy Indian city.
Check out the palace in below video!
From Cooch Bihar to Tura
The next morning I left Cooch Bihar, excited to enter Meghalaya, another state of India. My 7th state that I have visited in the past 4 months. It was also the day of the mistake I was going to make. I could blame the nearby mosque that woke me up at 5 am when the call for prayer was announced over their speakers, and completely disturbed my REM sleep, but that may not be fair.
I typed ‘Tura’ as my destination in the Google Maps app, I pressed “ROUTE” and off I went. No clue as to which route or road I was taking, no preparation beforehand. The whole trip I was just looking at the screen of my phone and enjoying the views during my ride.
At some point I noticed the road was getting a bit sandy, and then sandier, and even more sandier. I was riding on a beach! What.had.happened?
My Google Maps app was happily saying “Take the ferry!”
Looking at the crowds on the beach coming, who mostly came off very tiny wooden boats, I scanned the area for a larger car ferry. I didn’t see one obviously. Bystanders told me that I had to pass the mighty Brahmaputra river in one of those tiny boats who were laying on the shore with only a very small ramp for exiting and entering.
I noticed two bikes coming off one of those boats, so in theory, it was possible. I watched them closely. Getting those two bikes off didn’t go very smoothly, but more importantly, they were much smaller and lighter bikes than mine.
I had no idea on how the landing site would be on the other side of the river either.
I was fighting this mental battle of “Imagine the awesome footage and stories of getting my bike on this boat” against “It will fall off the ramp and my bike will dive into the water, ending my motorbike adventures right here, right now!”
Ultimately, I decided I was too attached to my Basanti and I would not want her to be hurt. I studied the digital map on my phone again to find the nearest bridge. It took me 2 full hours to reach. That was one steep learning curve…
When I finally made it to Tura, I was exhausted. Luckily, I got to spent the night in one of the cutiest accommodation I ever slept in: a treehouse! My little beach-disaster was soon forgotten! In the end I thought it was not as bad as driving a car into a metro station, right?